B.C. Liberals Refuse To Protect First Nations Communities From Fire Risk: New Democrats
VICTORIA – The B.C. Liberal government refuses to take any real steps to protect vulnerable First Nations communities from an increasing wildfire risk, say the New Democrats.
“The B.C. Liberals have completely abandoned their responsibility to First Nations communities on the eve of what most experts are predicting to be another difficult fire season,” said opposition aboriginal relations critic Bob Simpson .
“First Nations communities are the most at risk of serious fire, yet the B.C. Liberal government has not done nearly enough to address that risk.”
After the 2003 fire season which destroyed hundreds of homes in the Okanagan, former Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon was commissioned to make recommendations to prevent more catastrophic damage.
Key among those recommendations was the implementation of fire protection plans and an aggressive strategy to address the buildup of fuel around communities.
Seven years later, only five per cent of the fuel management work has been done and most First Nations communities still have no fire protection plans. This week, the First Nations Forestry Council sounded the alarm over the lack of funding for wildfire prevention.
Questioned Thursday about his government’s refusal to put any significant resources into wildfire protection plans for First Nations, Forests Minister Pat Bell changed the subject and suggested opposition critics should be “ashamed” to ask the question.
“The Filmon Report was clear that it was the provincial government’s responsibility to see that work done,” said Simpson, “yet the forests minister continues to pass the buck to local governments and First Nations.
“It’s outrageous that the minister thinks the opposition and First Nations should be ashamed to ask legitimate questions about his government’s failure to live up to their responsibilities.
“The B.C. Liberals need to stop playing politics and ensure that every First Nations community has access to the resources they need to do the important work of wildfire prevention.”
Carole James and New Democrats have been calling on the B.C. government to back up the promises in the New Relationship Accord with action, and to support the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.